THERE was joy at RAF Odiham this week as more Chinooks returned from helping British and American forces topple Saddam Hussein.

Ten Chinooks and about 60 airmen are back at the base but another ten helicopters are still out in Iraq and could be there for some time to come.

“We will certainly have a commitment out there for the foreseeable future,” said an RAF Odiham spokeswoman.

The Odiham-based Chinooks, which were deployed in mid-January, have so far put in more than 2,300 flying hours in the Gulf.

A total of about 650 Odiham staff helped in key areas, including supporting Royal Marines on the Al Faw Peninsular in south-eastern Iraq.

They also helped capture the key port of Umm Qasr and the city of Basra and supported 16 Air Assault Brigade in the Ramala oilfields.

Members of 27 Squadron have now returned home, and those remaining are helping the humanitarian efforts in Basra and Safwan.

Wing commander Guy van den Berg, acting station commander at RAF Odiham, said it was “tremendous” that no personnel from Odiham had lost their lives during the campaign.

See page 7 for more details and pictures of the crews’ emotional return to Odiham.